A splendid evening by the river
ISLIP TOWN—Last Sunday was a brilliant, sun-dappled day to delight in the breathtaking vista overlooking the Connetquot River from the porch of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum’s Westbrook Manor House. Friends of the Arboretum, like-minded community members, volunteers and well-wishers sharing a love of Long Island’s rich history, attended the sixth annual Cocktail Reception to celebrate the restoration of the Carriage House and to support fundraising efforts facilitating the ongoing renovation projects there.
Executive director Nelson Sterner answered questions and cited improvements that have transpired during his tenure. “The porch was dilapidated and rebuilt within the last couple of years,” he explained. The Carriage House, originally home to stables, had the kitchen redone and the evening’s guests were invited to stroll through the upper and lower areas to view the updates. A new projection and sound system was added, which entailed updating the electric and lighting, and will be used to facilitate lectures and concerts.
The Breezy Island Tea House was rebuilt in 2017, but first in 2016 the invasive bamboo was cleared where the original rustic cottage where Mrs. Cutting would often have her tea had stood; it was demolished in the 1960s due to structural damage. Native Long Island plants surround today’s tea house, which is inspired by the original rustic design and dedicated to the memory of Maxwell H. Remmer, who spent much of his young life exploring the arboretum.
Many locals call the arboretum their “backyard.” Christy and Rob Johnson, daughter and son-in-law of Carolann Gaites, director of volunteers, come several times a year to walk the paths lined with expertly manicured lawns and seasonal foliage. An entire group from Providence on the Park Residences in Great River, many of whom are volunteers, reserved a table to enjoy the day together. Denise Fehr, a docent, has been coming since 1968. Parents bring their children and when the children grow up, they bring their children.
During his presentation, “The Evolution of Bayard Cutting Arboretum,” Sterner thanked the many volunteers and sponsors who through their ongoing efforts have brought the arboretum to where it is today, especially thanking Gaites for expanding the volunteer program from just 15 people to 130. “It does take a village,” he said, and added that the experience of everyone working together is more like sharing a fun time with friends.
Though so much has been accomplished, fundraising is ongoing. Phase 1 was for the restoration of the Carriage House where the arboretum staff, assisted by a team of tradespeople and volunteers, undertook the enormous task of restoring its beautiful rooms, both upper and lower—repaired, painted and refurbished. Project sponsorships for Phase 2 include the Garden Project, which will help maintain the historic trees through pruning, removal of hazardous trees and the planting of at least 25 new trees; air conditioning and flooring in the Upper Carriage House; and restoration of the old kitchen in the manor house including its flooring, walls, and lighting to bring it back to its original elegance.
The Bayard Cutting Arboretum is a treasure located at 440 Montauk Highway, Great River. To learn more about donations, volunteering, ongoing flower, art and music programs visit the website at bayardcuttingarboretum.com.
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